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Recent Missouri editorials

May 15, 2018

Kansas City Star, May 14

Whatever happens in court this week, Gov. Eric Greitens deserves to be impeached

This will be quite a week for Eric Greitens and for all Missourians.

As soon as a jury can be seated, the governor’s first criminal trial will begin in St. Louis, where he faces a felony charge of invasion of privacy.

Then on Friday, a 30-day special session on the governor’s impeachment is set to begin in the Missouri House.

In between, the bipartisan House committee investigating Greitens will continue to do its work, as will the governor’s fellow Republican, Attorney General Josh Hawley.

Though just about anything can happen in a courtroom, and has, we would not be surprised to see Greitens acquitted on the invasion of privacy charge.

That’s not because we don’t believe the account of the governor’s former hairdresser, as laid out in excruciating detail by the House committee, which also took sworn testimony from the woman’s ex-husband and two friends she told about Greitens’ behavior with her soon after it occurred in 2015.

But Assistant Circuit Attorney Robert Dierker has said that prosecutors do not have the semi-naked photo that the governor is accused of taking without the victim’s consent. That will make it more difficult for prosecutors to prove their case.

The governor’s legal team, meanwhile, is still trying to stop the state from continuing to search for it on the governor’s phone. If Greitens took no such picture, why stop the search?

Still, unless St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s team finds that photo — and clearly, time is running out — it will be tough to get a conviction on this charge.

In a separate felony case, Greitens is also accused of accessing the donor list of the veterans charity he started without the group’s consent, and of using the list illegally, to raise campaign cash.

Greitens, who has from the beginning denied that he did anything wrong in either case, continues to cast himself as the victim of a politically inspired “witch hunt.”

Not exactly; there’s no evidence that Gardner is hysterical, or out to get a monster that exists only in her imagination.

“You can’t read the accounts” in reports from the House committee, former Missouri GOP chair John Hancock told us recently, “and come away with anything other than extreme concern.” The only way to believe Greitens not guilty of the behavior he’s accused of, Hancock says, “is to believe that everyone else is lying, and I’m not prone to believing conspiracy theories.” We aren’t, either.

Ultimately, only one person is to blame for Eric Greitens’ problems, and that’s Eric Greitens.

Yet the newbie prosecutor does not seem to have made the strongest possible case against a public official who indulged in the usual magical thinking that he’d never pay any price for his actions.

In fact, Gardner’s decision not to pursue sexual assault charges is more mystifying than her assumption that the photo would turn up.

Whatever happens in court this week won’t change our view that Greitens deserves to be impeached, though.

Or that Missouri deserves a governor who has not been credibly accused of sexual and physical violence and theft.

Impeachment is not apt to happen quickly, but it’s more important that it be handled correctly, which is why we’ve repeatedly asked Greitens to step down for the good of the state, not to mention of his own family.

That there are children involved makes his refusal to do so even more heartbreaking than it is infuriating. The state will recover from his ugly self-indulgence, and so will the governor’s party, but the innocent may or may not, and that too, will be on him.

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The Columbia Daily Tribune, May 10

Special session was the right call

Missouri lawmakers made the right choice by calling themselves into special session to weigh allegations against Gov. Eric Greitens and determine his fitness for office.

A petition calling for a special session, scheduled to convene 30 minutes after the regular session ends May 18, was signed by 139 of the 161 House members, and 29 of 33 senators.

The allegations against Greitens warrant a deeper conversation among lawmakers, and the time to comb over the facts presented, including the damning details included in two House investigative committee reports.

The special session is about more than impeaching Greitens, who now faces two felony charges for unrelated matters. One is for invasion of privacy for allegedly taking an illicit photo of his former mistress without her consent, and the other for computer tampering related to Greitens’ use of a campaign donor list obtained from the charity he founded.

Lawmakers deserve time to focus on the allegations and conduct of Greitens without distraction. Passing legislation, such as a state budget, is a big distraction. Some lawmakers have lamented that the process to oust Greitens is moving too fast. The special session should slow things down a bit. Lawmakers will have time to review the facts, testimonies and come to their own conclusion about whether Geitens should stay in office.

Lawmakers also will be able to consider legal proceedings against Greitens scheduled to begin Monday, when he goes to trial on the invasion of privacy charge. The computer tampering charges are still in preliminary stages and no trial date has been set.

We commend members of the Boone County delegation for supporting the special session, regardless of the outcome. It shows each is willing to approach the special session with an open mind. That’s all any of us can ask for, and also the least any of us should expect.

And we’re glad the legislature waited to take up impeachment until the House committee could further pursue its work and put the complete case before the larger chamber.

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The Joplin Globe, May 8

It’s Missouri’s turn

Sometimes our elected leaders can agree on something, and in the case of House Bill 1739, the unanimous vote means common sense prevailed.

Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, sponsored the bill that gives judges the latitude to make their own decisions rather than inflict the mandatory prison terms and statutory minimum sentences in a limited number of cases, particularly if it’s not necessary in the interest of public safety. We are, of course, talking about instances of nonviolent offenses such as drug- and alcohol-related crimes.

It does not mean, of course, that there won’t still be a price to pay. Smith told columnist Susan Redden last week that the offenders are shifted into alternatives, such a drug court. Instead of being an inmate and costing the taxpayers money, the offender is able, hopefully, to keep a job and his or her family.

A group called Families Against Mandatory Minimums, has praised the bill, saying we lock up too many people and are spending far too much money building jails and prisons. We agree.

“If Missouri wants to be safer, this bill is a must-pass item, and clearly Missouri’s House members agree,” said Molly Gill, vice president of policy for FAMM in a statement on its website. “The state can’t afford to not change its sentencing laws. This bill would let Missouri judges reserve longer prison sentences for the most serious offenders, which saves money and prevents a prison-building bonanza. It’s a smart way to protect public safety without breaking the bank.”

HB 1739 would apply to a narrow range of people. Offenders who used or threatened to use violence, engaged in sexual acts with a minor, or brandished or discharged a firearm would not be eligible for consideration for a sentence below the minimum term required by current law.

The bill could save Missouri more than $3 million a year. The next stop is the Missouri Senate. Another local legislator, Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, introduced an identical bill, and it has passed through committee.

States including George, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, North Dakota and Oklahoma have all adopted similar legislation.

Now, it’s Missouri’s turn.

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